Marilyn Monroe’s Measurements: Was She Really a Size 12 – 16?

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marilyn monroe

Marilyn Monroe in 1962

There has been a lot of controversy about Marilyn Monroe’s size and measurements. No one really knows the true origin of the myths surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s size.

In Hollywood, new rumors and drama sparks up every single day. Marilyn is no exception to this. Even today, if you ask someone what they think Marilyn Monroe’s measurements were back when she was a model and actress, they will probably speculate or tell you she was a size 12-16.

Fortunately, some research has been done on Marilyn’s body type and her dress size. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the things that influenced her clothing as well as the actual measurements of one of her dresses to answer once and for all – did Marilyn Monroe’s measurements really equate to size 12 – 16?

Extreme Hourglass ShapeMarilyn Monroe’s body was very unique, representing an extreme hour glass. There have been a number of arguments as to what Marilyn’s size really was; a majority of people saying that she was a size 12 and some other stars recently claiming that she was a size 16.

Women’s sizes today are nowhere near comparable to sizes back in the 1950s. The number sizing system has changed significantly over the years. The United States Department of Commerce stepped in during the 1980s to completely change the sizing system used throughout stores. A size 8 today would be about a size 16 in the 1950s.

Dressmaker Measurements

marilyn monroe uso

Monroe appearing with the USO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marilyn Monroe’s size was measured by one of her dress makers and released as 5’5” tall, 35” bust, 22” waist, and 35” hips. Her bra size was 36D. During Marilyn’s time, her waist was about 2-3 inches smaller than the average woman in America and by today’s average she was 12 inches smaller.

Marilyn Monroe’s measurements are unique and her star-status gave her the ability to spoil herself with custom fitted clothing. Any woman with the spectacular hourglass shape similar to Marilyn’s would have a hard time finding clothes that fit in a regular department store.

Throughout Marilyn’s career, she had a lot of weight fluctuations due to depression, illness, and other personal problems that she fought with during the final years of her life

The Myth of Marilyn’s SizePeople often talk about how Marilyn Monroe was about the same size as the average woman today, but it’s not true! Taking into consideration the fact that the sizing system was changed in the 80s, Marilyn’s size would be very small by today’s standards.

The average woman’s waist size today is about 34 inches whereas Marilyn’s waist size was only 22 inches. Models in her time had an average waist size of about 25 inches.

The Bottom LineSo with all this talk of the changed sizing system and Marilyn’s unique shape and size… what does all of this mean? It means that Marilyn Monroe’s size wasn’t anywhere close to the average woman’s size (12-16) nowadays.

Marilyn had a unique style, personality, and appearance. Today’s models may have tiny waists and wear sizes smaller than Marilyn, but Marilyn would still be considered beautiful.

Interesting Tidbits about Marilyn Monroe

  • On their deathbed, two men claimed paternity of Marilyn Monroe: C. Stanley Gifford and Edward Mortensen. Gifford is the man whom Marilyn and her mother both believed was her real father, yet would refuse to ever meet Marilyn while she was alive. Mortensen was married to Marilyn’s mother when she was born and it is also the name that is on her birth certificate (despite being misspelled).
  • Marilyn’s salary was nothing special in comparison to other actors and actresses who played roles in the same films as her. She made just $100,000 for her final unfinished film “Something’s Got to Give.”
  • She had trouble learning and remembering the lines to play her part properly.
  • Monroe had an impressive IQ in addition to her good looks. She tested at 33 points higher than the national average at the time. As she got older, though, acting took over and became more important than her academic pursuit because she wanted to follow her dreams.
  • Marilyn’s father disappeared before she was born and her mother was dealing with severe mental issues. She eventually was placed in a mental institution. At 16, Marilyn’s foster parents couldn’t even continue supporting her; they sent her back to the orphanage. She married a man named Jimmy Dougherty in 1942, who soon left to fight in World War II.
  • Dougherty and Monroe fought a lot about how scandalous she was in her photos and after, they never really talked to each other.
  • Hugh Hefner owns the burial site right next to Marilyn’s at the Westwood Memorial Park in LA, California. Hefner only paid $78,000 for the site in 1992. Several burial sites nearby Monroe’s and Hefner’s have gone for sale. The vault above Marilyn’s received a bid for nearly $4.4 million when it was up for sale.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s funeral had an open casket viewing. She was dressed in a green Pucci sheath dress and a platinum blonde wig.
  • Mariah Carey bought the white baby grand piano in an auction in 1999 for over $600,000.
  • Lee Strasberg’s third wife, Anna Strasberg, eventually took control of 75 percent of Monroe’s estate after Lee died.
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22 Comments

  1. noelani

    December 7, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Her weight fluctuated quite a bit, as much as 50 pounds, I would say. She was fortunate that the weight went on proportionately. If you look at the nude photos that were used in the first edition of Playboy Magazine, her breasts were not large at all. They never were huge, they were just well-shaped and high and quality is more important than quantity!

  2. Collette Marie Gallegos

    January 13, 2014 at 6:04 am

    I still believe Marilyn was a few sizes larger, she was the top icon of her day explaining the reason for that day and age waistline average of American trend. Men are all about sizing up women for their own dominate pursuit, they’ll say anything comparably compatible to make women what ever the hell they may bond together over to fullfill their sik demented won over by masturbate minds!

  3. Katiesdfctvv

    March 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    That’s interesting….if they really were Marilyn’s measurements, then apart from the height, I am exactly the same…

  4. Autumn

    May 21, 2014 at 12:02 am

    This is now the second article I’ve seen where the author says, “No one knows where this myth got started…” It got started in the movie “The Misfits” where Marilyn herself says that she is a size 12. Clark Gable repeats that size later on in the movie. Why would people write an article about Marilyn Monroe if they’ve never even watched her movies??? Please do some research before writing something!!

    • Nooa

      May 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Yes but as the author said a size 12 in the 50’s would probably be a size 4 today, so that’s the confusion. Yes she was a 1950’s size 12. Everyone forgets that they got rid of universal sizing in the 80’s as everyone got bigger.

    • Fat Hater

      June 18, 2015 at 6:25 am

      Did you even read the article? Or were you too busy chomping down on a greasy pizza to bother look up to the screen? She had a 22 inch waist, so compare that to what your waist size is now. Let me guess..over 40 inches?

  5. Sarah Meade

    June 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    It’s not a “myth” though since it’s true. It’s just misunderstood.

    It would be like a person telling a child “I used to buy ___ for $1″ when I was a kid,” then not explaining that a dollar had more value back then. Today, retail sizes are vastly different.

    The sizing from the 1950’s is still used in the fashion industry for patterns. McCall’s is a common pattern brand and if you check the Misses size 12 you’ll see Marilyn fits (except her tiny waist!)

  6. Dorota

    July 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Wait, wait, wait! Bust 35” and bra size 36 D? Makes no sense, and means, that she was wider under breasts than in bust.

    • Jan

      November 28, 2014 at 7:11 am

      I was thinking the exact same thing! 😀

    • Rose

      June 9, 2015 at 8:29 am

      When the measurement is an odd number you round up or down. Depends on how tight you want the band. It makes complete sense. It would make sense to you two too, if you took the time to self educate about bras.

      • Rose

        June 9, 2015 at 8:38 am

        Things were measured differently back then*

    • didi

      June 11, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      of course it makes sense. if your waist is SO small – 22 inches, you can easily have 36D. i have the same bust – 35 inches, but my waist is 30 and I am 36B. if i’d have such a big boobs on my broad chest, my bra size would be like… F or G.

  7. Jayla

    August 19, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Bras don’t typically come in size 35. And you would not usually buy a size smaller. You buy the bigger size. Her bra size alone would need a bigger size top. she was probably a 4 to 12 by todays standard. Depending on her weight fluctuations. As much as 50 lbs. You also have to take into account weight distribution and bone structure. Two people same weight and height could look dramatically different due to bone structure. Bigger bone structure will look bigger. As well as where the weight is deposited. Her breast could have weighed 20 lbs alone.

    • Jan

      November 28, 2014 at 7:16 am

      The number in a bra size refers to the under bust measurement, not the full bust, therefore with measurements 35-22-35 and a D cup I’d be expecting her to be a 30D or a 32D at most.

      • Anita

        April 6, 2015 at 12:29 am

        That’s not true, bras are made so that the band measurement is in reality the widest part of the bust. Not the measurement of the under bust. If you take one of your bras and measure the band itself it will not be equal to the size the bra is labelled as. I wear a 32D, and my widest part of my chest is 32″, but my under bust is only 27″, but obviously I don’t wear a size 27D. Therefore she defiantly would have fit a 36D.

        • Rose

          June 9, 2015 at 8:34 am

          Oh Anita, you poor thing.
          You aren’t a 32D. Based on your measurements you’d wear a 28DD, or a 30DD or even a 30D.
          The number in your band measurement, also known as the under bust measurement. The letter represents how many inches bigger you’re bust is.
          Please, quit confusing yourself and making a fool out of yourself.

      • Rose

        June 9, 2015 at 8:36 am

        And you jab
        Jan. If she wears a 32, she’s be a 32C. Of she’s a 30, she’d be a 30DD or 32D (sister size). In order to be a 36D, her bust would have to be at 40 instead of 35. But oh well.

        • Rose

          June 9, 2015 at 8:38 am

          Jan*

  8. Curiouser49

    October 17, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Mayilyn was just a beautiful woman – weight fluxuation or not. Her life was very sad and it only goes to show you that in the end, weight, looks, money – don’t bring you happiness. You make your own happiness when you find what brings you happiness.

  9. BeautyWithin

    April 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Having an extreme hour glass figure myself,I try to not get hung up on sizes but measurements never lie. It really depends upon the article of clothing to determine the size. My sizes range from M to XXL. If it’s jeans size 10, if it’s dress slacks 14-16. If it’s a long skirt size 10, shorter skirt size 12-14. If it’s a button-down shirt probably not a good idea. If it’s winter in Chicago – my 26″ waist plays no part in my XXL coat zipping up over my sweater packing 36DDD’s.

    Beauty is in the heart and mind.

  10. curvyone

    June 9, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Marilyn was small by today’s average American woman. She’s also much curvier than the average bone-thin actress of today. I had close to her measurements in high school, but not her height at only 5’3″ My measurements were 34B- 24- 34, so apparently I was/am an hourglass, and proud to be one. Back then in the 80s I was wearing a junior size 5 or 7. Today I am a size misses 8/10. Fifteen years ago I would have had to weigh 125 lbs to fit into a size 8. I am 30 lbs heavier and still fit most size 8 clothes. Proof vanity sizing exists.

  11. lulu

    June 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    If you look at most of her pictures, she was pretty thin. Her body had curves, but she wasn’t overly large in her breast or bottom. She had incidents where she put on a few extra pounds and looked good, but there are only a few pictures of her with a bit of extra weight- they are just so popular, people tend to equate her body with those pictures.

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